Baja California is our go-to travel destination right now because it offers the perfect blend of emerging wineries, vibrant art, and rich history. Every time we come back from one of our trips to Baja California, we bring a few more of the region's flavors into our homes. And while we do bring back some wine or some spices, more often that not it's just straight-up inspiration.
A fun little food fact about Baja? Well, it turns out Caesar Salad originated in in the Hotel Caesar in Tijuana, so what better way to celebrate the history of Baja than with this classic dish? Tossing the salad in avocado dressing gives this dish a totally modern twist.
Another classic that's rumored to hail from Baja California... The margarita! This classic cocktail is said to be from Hussong's Cantina in Ensenada and we totally embrace the kitschy sawdust interior where they serve pitcher after pitcher of margaritas. Our version is an homage to the Hussong's version — basically a Cadillac margarita that's 100% real with zero shortcuts. Meaning it's filled with fresh squeezed lime juice, loads of crushed ice, and 100% agave tequila.
Okay, ya, as Southern Californians, we love a good fish taco. And though you can find them all over Alta California, they originated in Baja. Inspired by one of our favorite fish taco spots around, these tacos are battered in beer, sprinkled with cilantro, and brightened with lime.
Truth is, we first encountered this ceviche on a trip to Rancho Pescadero in Baja California Sur but we're adding it to this list because across the Baja peninsula you can find some amazing seafood ceviche. This year we'll be making this Shrimp and Watermelon Ceviche on repeat because it has quickly become one of our favorites.
If ceviche is common in Baja California, tostadas are everywhere. As in seemingly every other street food stand sells their version of a seafood tostada. Inspired by the roadside stands across the region, the key to these is to use the absolute freshest fish you can find.
So, in case you haven't noticed, seafood is kind of a thing in Baja California. Though you find aguachile (a twist on ceviche) everywhere in Tijuana to Ensenada, it is said to come from Sinaloa (the wave of immigrants from that area brought it to Baja). This version uses loads of herbs, chiles, and lime to marinate the shrimp, and it's pretty much the easiest (and possibly) most delicious version out there.
A trip to Baja California is not be complete without a aiming to eat as many tostadas as you can muster. And if you're going to talk tostada in Baja, you have to try the legendary pisco clam and sea urchin tostada at La Guerrerense. Equally legendary? Their super spicy peanut salsa is worth crossing the border. Here's our attempt to recreate it, and it's up to you to head to Baja and do a side-by-side taste test!
To get a taste of the local spiny lobster, a mandatory Baja California stop is Puerto Nuevo — basically a town near Rosarito with restaurant after restaurant that exists exclusively to cook freshly caught lobster. The next best thing is to cook it yourself. So, for your next cookout, grab a cold Mexican beer, light up the grill, and go for lobster tails. We prefer bold to bland, and adding a dash hot sauce, some charred green onions, and orange zest does just that.
One of the things we dig most about the food in Baja California? The use of lots and lots of fresh veggies. This smoky-sweet street corn salad takes the flavors of classic esquites and lightens them up and totally remind us of a similar dish we've had at La Justina Restaurant in Tijuana.
Okay, mango with chile is by no means a Baja treat as you can find it all over Mexico. But this fancified version with spicy mango, fresh mint and cilantro, is a dish we'd take over regular old fruit salad any day of the week.
First things first... Bloody Marys don't have to be red and no they're not from Baja. But we do believe this salsa "verde" twist would be a perfect pairing to a Baja-inspired brunch. Spicy tomatillos, refreshing cucumbers, and smoky sea salt make this Baja style Bloody Mary a headliner on our summer cocktail list.
Speaking of brunch, Tijuana knows how to do it right. One place that we're totally smitten for is Alma Verde where they have all sorts of pressed juice, really amazing French toast, and some of the best chilaquiles we've ever had, including this sweet, spicy beet version!
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Remi Zimmerman is a graduate of the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. She has honed her hospitality leadership skills through working on Food Network's Giada at Home, the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, Windsor Capital Group, and at the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach. After studying in Florence, Italy, she continues to feed her passion for food and travel working for Salt & Wind.